Looking at the High School as a System - This is a chart to help you examine the statement “there is only one real customer—the individual who chooses to pursue an education” (More). Using the explanations below the chart for the callouts (such as ), how is the system working for those pursuing an education and all the other customers?



Customers (Users, Clients, Stakeholders) and Issues




High School


Details in the News about High School Education (Click here to go the sources of these quotations.)


1. Customer as user?






a. Commitment by the user?

a. Almost always


a. Varies

“majority of Texas districts have policies mandating minimum grades — typically a 50” (ended by TEA)

b. Preparation of the user?

b. Almost always


b. Varies

c. User as part of product?

c. If focus groups


c. Almost always


2. Customer as who pays?



Student, parents

70% of parents -“things ‘are fine as they are now.’”


3. Customer who may help to pay the bill?



Almost always taxpayers



4. Customer as creator of the product/service

Business owner; vendors


Mixed—teachers, testing, vendors, districts, SBOE

“Driving a No. 2 pencil into the heart of testing monster”


5. Customer as the field of knowledge behind the product/service?



Mixed—teachers, testing, vendors, districts, SBOE

“SBOE determines what millions of students learn in public schools”



6. Customer as the regulator (such as a certifier, accreditor, or standards organization)?

Regulators - BBB


Mixed—testing, vendors, districts, SBOE, NCLB

“Education Inc. How private companies are profiting from Texas public schools”



7. Customer as the region? 






a. Need for qualified workers?

a. Never


a. Often to Always

- “Rate of Hispanic dropouts cause for waves of worry”

- “Business group joins suit over school funding”

- “…they can’t even fill out an application. They can’t spell. They can’t read and write. But yet they got this diploma.”

b. Need for good jobs?

b. Never


b. Often to Always

c. Need for safe communities?

c .Never


c. Often to Always

d. Need for a solid tax base?

d. Never


d. Always


8. Customer as the nation’s economic competitiveness?

Occasionally (Walmart effect)


All customers above

- “Science a sore subject in U.S.”

- “Business group wants better math curriculum”


9. Customer as the nation’s decision-making in a republic?



All customers above

Justice O’Connor – “no testing”/”no funding” - NCLB’s “unintended effect” – “squeezed out civics education”


10.The product/service is






a. For short-term use?

a. Almost always


a. Occasionally

Same as 7


b. For long-term use?

b. Rarely


b. Almost always


c. On-going but changing?

c. Almost always


c. Almost always


11. Measurement of the user as part of the product and of the product/service is?

Transparent, and the shoppers got what they wanted


Transparent as test numbers; in transition

- “Study: School spending tough to track”

- “Clear Lake High begins crackdown on cheaters”


12. Rewards of success go to?

Business owner


All customers above

“Grier says cheating inquiry on his agenda…HISD links bonuses to higher scores”

13. Risks from failure go to?

Depends on contract, liability


All customers above - 1st risks to business and higher education

- “A Stronger nation through Higher Education”  but

-“The value of blue collar work” (without college)


Explanations for the callouts:


What does the news show about what has happened to decrease the commitment by the user?



What does the news show about whether we are being successful in meeting the needs of the diverse customers of high school education?

What has happened to things that we needed to “retain”—something that that Dietrich Dӧrner stresses is often overlooked when people are trying to solve problems?


What does the news show about success in measurement?


How do we protect ALL customers? How do you keep rewards and risks together? When one customer gets the reward and transfers the risk to the other customers, systems break. What happening with

Cautions:  Systems get what they measure. Systems get what they reward even when they don’t want it.






Use of the Term in The Logic of Failure


Planners and decision makers … must make decisions affecting a system whose momentary features they can see only partially, unclearly, in blurred and shadowy outline¾or possibly not at all. (p. 40)


How can we avoid this pitfall? Simply by keeping in mind, whenever we undertake the solution of a problem, the features of the current situation that we want to retain. Simple? Apparently not.


As Brecht observed late in life, advocates of progress often have too low an opinion of what already exists. When we set out to change things, in other words, we do not pay enough attention to what we want to leave unchanged. But an analysis of what should be retained:

§         gives us our only opportunity to make implicit goals explicit

§         and to prevent the solution of each problem from generating new problems like heads of the Hydra.














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WCJC Department:

History – Dr. Bibus

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Last Updated:

2012 – 06/04

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